Warner Bros. was rather petty about the Suicide Squad trailer leaking, but they were right about one thing: The teaser is aimed squarely at the fan who already knows enough about Captain Boomerang that they don't really find his name funny anymore. It doesn't make any effort to introduce the members of its sprawling nine-person team, nor does it give any hint at the plot of the movie besides alluding, in very general terms, to the genesis of the Squad.
I'm here to help. When you've finished this article, you'll know the Suicide Squad better than "Will Smith, Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, Skull Guy, Sword Woman, Goth Woman, White Guy, Other White Guy, The Last One and The Joker I Guess?" But understanding the Suicide Squad doesn't start with any of those guys. The first person you should be asking about is ...
Played by Viola Davis, Amanda Waller is seen in the dinner scene at the beginning of the teaser (previous actresses who've taken the role include C.C.H. Pounder, Pam Grier and Angela Basset).
How do I begin to explain The Wall? She's flawless. I hear she does car commercials ... in Kahndaq. I hear her pantsuits are insured for $10,000. One time, she met Batman on a plane. She told him, "Watch your back, rich boy."
Amanda Waller is a bit like the Nick Fury of the DC Universe, in that she knows everyone's secrets, she's constantly at odds both with her superiors and her subordinates, and she's a kickass character of color in a predominantly white setting. Where they differ is that Nick Fury (at least the one in the Marvel movies) believes that superheroes are the key to defending humanity from destruction. Waller believes that sort of thinking is idiotic, naive and downright dangerous. Superheroes are just people. And people are stupid.
This attitude never quite makes her a villain, but it often prevents her from being an ally of the Justice League and the folks they'd call their friends. Mostly, it gets her into the deepest, darkest areas of the United States government, working on ways to make sure that no superhero can ever truly defy it, or on ways to make those powers work for the powers that be.
Hence, the Suicide Squad, an attempt to take some of the most worthless folks the superpowered community has and turn their worthlessness into a successful black ops team; one that works for the U.S., but cannot be traced back to it. In comics, Waller didn't create the first Suicide Squad, but she discovered the existence of earlier incarnations of the group, and based her proposed Squad on elements from them.
Want more Waller? Watch Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. (They're both on Netflix!)
Waller's idea was simple: Turn the nation's strictest maximum security prison, Belle Reve, into the home base of a new kind of of spec ops team. Members of the Suicide Squad, as it came to be known, would be specially selected by her from the national prison population of costumed criminals. They'd be sent on any mission too dangerous to waste even superpowered agents on, and any mission so dark that the U.S. wanted full deniability if the Squad was discovered on the job.
Why would these amoral malcontents want to work these dangerous missions? Because in exchange for their cooperation, they'd receive better treatment and shortened sentences. Why wouldn't they just cut and run as soon as they were let loose on assignment? Because upon their admittance to Belle Reve, Waller had arranged for bombs to be installed in their skulls, and she could blow them at any time. Not just if a prisoner tried to escape, but for insubordination, refusing orders, failing to meet objectives or messing with group cohesion. On some missions, Squad members were even equipped with armbands that would blow off the relevant limb should they move too far away from the mission site.
(Waller also wasn't particularly free with removing those bombs after folks had earned their freedom, quietly creating a whole crop of DC villains that she has the ultimate leverage on.)
Metatextually, the Suicide Squad's most well known incarnation was a simple idea with a significant, beneficial side effect: With dozens of supervillains to every superhero, DC Comics writers were sitting on a gold mine of existing character concepts, so why not write a book where they're forced to work together?
But it was the use of nearly unknown C-list villains also gave the comic an edge. Nobody really believes that a hero will get killed in their own book, so it can be hard to bring tension to the fight between good and evil. But when every member of the team is as unimportant to the publisher as they are to the fictional setting in which they exist, death really can be around the corner. As the Suicide Squad book killed somebody in just about every story arc, readers, as so often happens, got hooked on the idea that nobody was safe.
And now you know why there are so many dang characters in that teaser: Some of them aren't getting out of here alive. In fact, I'd lay down money that at least two of them, if not more, won't even make it to the third act. So let's introduce you to all of them!
(As Suicide Squad is an adaptation, and isn't even close to being out yet, these descriptions are predominantly based on comic book incarnations of the characters.)
Joel Kinnaman will be playing this square-jawed spy, because, even with all the head-bombs, a government team of supervillains needs at least one onsite agent. Typically that duty has fallen to Rick Flagg Jr.
A rocky history in the armed forces (lots of dead men and women in arms) had left Flagg somewhat emotionally unstable when he signed up to lead the Suicide Squad, a state not helped by how much he despised the unrepentant criminals he now had for subordinates.
As the token unlikeable good guy, there probably won't be much pathos to wring out of his death, and he may be too structurally important to the movie to drop.
Chief among the folks Flagg hated working with was Floyd Lawton, a mercenary assassin who goes by the codename Deadshot. Where Flagg kills indiscriminately for the government, Lawton will do it for the right price.
Along with Flagg, Deadshot is one of the more long-running members of the Suicide Squad, to the extent that other characters have remarked that it's just not the Suicide Squad without him. A preternaturally expert marksman who is infamously emotionally numb to death (including his own), Deadshot has few interpersonal attachments (at least that he admits to). Judging by a few clips in the teaser, however, he may have a daughter in the movie.
In Gail Simone's Secret Six, it's made clear that Deadshot cares about his daughter, Zoe, and her future enough to barely visit her, so as to limit her exposure to his own negative personality traits as much as the violence of his work. Zoe and her mother are supported by his income as a mercenary, living under assumed names so that they won't be targeted by the many people who want him dead. This hasn't always been a foolproof system, and if we're seeing Deadshot's daughter in the teaser, it may be a plot point of Suicide Squad.
With Deadshot being played by Will Smith, it's vanishingly unlikely that he'll bite a bullet before the credits roll. Still can't get enough? Get the brand new, long-awaited Secret Six collections here and here (or at your local comic shop).
A character created half by accident for Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn is probably the best-known villain in this movie, except, of course, for her worse half, the Joker. Veteran psychologist Dr. Harleen Quinzel was expertly manipulated by the Joker into seeing the sadistic criminal as the ultimate victim of the Batman's reign of terror. As a side effect — one that seems to have come as unexpected even to the Joker — she also became romantically obsessed with him. Harleen claimed her own criminal identity as Harley Quinn and installed herself as the Joker's girlfriend and partner, armed with a variety of humorous weaponry and significant skills as an acrobat.
The Joker's attitude towards Harley can swing wildly from affection, to indifference, to violent hostility. The only person who has ever regularly managed to get Harley to forget about the Joker, even temporarily, is her fast friend (and sometimes girlfriend, as was recently confirmed) Poison Ivy.
As Suicide Squad's most well-known female character, don't expect Harley — or actress Margot Robbie — to go away anytime soon. Still can't get enough? Try her current ongoing series, or her Eisner Award-winning origin story.
George "Digger" Harkness is a criminal of Australian origin who is really good at throwing boomerangs and creating boomerang-based devices. This the sort of stuff it takes to become one of the Flash's biggest recurring villains.
Along with Flagg and Deadshot, he's one of the more steady members of the Suicide Squad, sticking with the group long enough to earn the right to "volunteer" for missions rather than being ordered. Amanda Waller has also described him as "a jerk and a screw-up," which is something to say when you're on a team composed entirely of DC Universe villains that nobody has ever heard of.
Lazy, cowardly, racist, undependable and played by Jai Courtney under the shortened name "Boomerang," Harkness still has a lot of history in the DCU with the Suicide Squad that a writer could play with.
When her mob-connected brother-in-law murdered her husband and twin children because she rejected his advances, Tatsu Yamashiro wrested the mystical sword from his grasp and would have taken her revenge there ... if the spirit of her dead husband had not spoken to her from within the weapon and advised her to flee from their burning home before she was killed herself.
On the quest to track down her brother-in-law and kill him, she would go on to fight injustice under the code name Katana, accompanied at all times by the spirit of her dead husband, trapped within her sword, Soultaker.
The odd one out on this list, Katana (played by Karen Fukuhara) is a little-known DC Comics hero, rather than a little-known villain. We'll have see to whether significant changes to her character or story have been made for the film, making it hard to pin down how central she'll be.
Killer Croc's appearance has varied over the years, from a giant man with inhumanly scaly skin, to ... well, a giant crocodile who resembles a man. Judging by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje's makeup, the film will be going for the former.
The truth to it is that he started out as one, and was mutated into the other. Born with a form of atavism that gave him his unique skin, a childhood of being bullied because of his appearance led Waylon Jones to the criminal life. His massive physique eased that transition, and he became an established member of Batman's Rogues Gallery. He was eventually infected with a mutagenic virus that began giving him far more crocodilian features, such as a snout, tail and claws.
There aren't any other hulking melee-ers on this team, which may mean that Croc sticks around to slither through a sequel.
The origin of June Moone's powers has undergone a lot of revamps and retcons over the years, but the short story is this: Moone is a mild-mannered young artist. The Enchantress is her immensely powerful sorceress persona, and totally evil.
The extent to which Moone is able to control the Enchantress has varied over time. Sometimes the Enchantress has seemed to be a repressed personality within Moone's own psyche. In other stories, they've been revealed to be two entities sharing a single body.
Played by Cara Delevingne in Suicide Squad, Enchantress' lack of definition may seal her narrative doom.
Slipknot is a guy who's really good at killing people with ropes.
He invented a kind of unbreakable rope so he could be better at killing people with it.
In his first mission with the Suicide Squad, he grew frustrated as the team encountered only robot enemies who could not be strangled. So he quit in a huff and attempted to escape, and Waller blew his arm off.
He's being played by Adam Beach.
You wouldn't think it from his name, but, like Katana, El Diablo is actually a DC superhero. The first El Diablo was one of the DC Universe's numerous American Old West heroes; the second, a more modern vigilante based in the American Southwest.
Jay Hernandez's El Diablo appears to be based on Chato Santana, the most recent incarnation of the character, an ex-criminal who meets the original El Diablo, who has somehow survived to the modern day.
You already know who the Joker is. He's got the biggest cultural footprint of any DC supervillain out there. I'm not going to explain who he is.
But it's important to remember that, despite the hype and attention around Jared Leto's version of the character, it's very unlikely that Joker is on the Squad. First of all, he's an A-list villain, and as we've covered, that's not what the Suicide Squad is for.
But even more than that, he's unpredictable, sadistic and violent; has no particular combat skills; and is entirely emotionally detached. Mama Waller didn't raise no fools.
The Joker likely has a different role in the film, like appearing in Harley's origin story, or perhaps even as the film's, well, villain. It's anybody's guess.
And that's it! You now know all about the Suicide Squad, and who's on it. Impress your friends! Improve your fan fiction!
Just try not get attached.